Bill that would give Hawaii ‘sanctuary state’ status moves forward at Legislature

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
Published: Feb. 26, 2019 at 2:29 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A measure that would turn Hawaii into a so-called “sanctuary state” for immigrants in the United States illegally is moving forward at the state Legislature.

And that’s despite strong objections from law enforcement.

Senate 557 would prohibit state and county law enforcement agencies from assisting federal agencies seeking to enforce immigration laws.

In testimony, the state Attorney General’s Office said the measure would undoubtedly subject the islands to “closer scrutiny by the federal government,” and potentially result in losses or delays in federal funding.

The Honolulu Police Department also raised concerns about threats to funding.

“Senate Bill 557 is founded on the incorrect premise that local law enforcement acts at the request of federal immigration officials in the execution of its duties,” said Acting Maj. Mark Cricchio, in testimony.

“Further, Senate Bill 557 pits federal law enforcement against local law enforcement and places police in the difficult position of having to choose between obeying state law or federal law.”

The Big Island Police Department called the measure “extremely onerous.”

But supporters of the measure say it’s needed given the Trump administration’s stance of illegal immigration.

And, they point out, Hawaii would join a handful of other states to adopt sanctuary laws.

“Undocumented immigrants are our families, friends and neighbors,” said resident Maria Tennant, in testimony.

“They are hard working, contributing members to our society. If anyone is unable to call the local police in a time of need for fear of being deported, our system has severely failed the people of Hawaii."

University of Hawaii Sociology Professor Nandita Sharma noted that the best estimates put the number of immigrants living in Hawaii illegally at about 45,000.

Sharma said the measure “clarifies the fact that immigration is a federal function.”

“We have more pressing needs for our local tax dollars than to deport people who are living peaceably among us,” she wrote, in testimony on the bill.

Senate Bill 557 passed through the Ways and Means Committee this week and is next headed to the full Senate for a vote. It approved, it would then go to the House for consideration.

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